Three Ways to Comfort a Friend When They’re “Ugly Crying”

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Definition of Ugly Crying: The kind of crying that scrapes at the bottom of your tummy, leaving you raw and sore; Crying that sounds like a wailing cat; Crying that renders all make-up, ice-packs and chocolate – useless.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years. One, I need to grieve alone. Some people drive quickly to friends or family and throw themselves into their arms, sobbing when soul-breaking hits. Not me.

Leave. Me. Alone.

Jenna, want to walk and talk it out today?

No.

Jenna, let’s grab a coffee and you can process with me.

No, thank you.

Can I at least call you and affirm you?

Nope.

I’ve wondered if something is wrong with me? Am I too proud to accept help?  I’ve come to find, telling my precious friends I’m not ready to talk…IS asking for help.  I’m asking them to help me grieve in the way that works for me. Finding friends that don’t take offense to this = ginormous blessing!  All of us process heartbreak in different ways.

This is what it looks like for me:

  • A LOT of ugly crying.
  • Lying face down.
  • Uglier crying.
  • Praying.
  • Grisly crying.
  • Reading the Bible.
  • Civilized Crying.
  • Prayer journaling.
  • Dainty crying.
  • Repeat for minimum of one week.

True friends give us the space to ugly cry alone- if that’s what we need. Seriously, if I even look a friend in the eyes during this time, I burst into uncontrollable tears in school parking lots.

I just can’t.

Profoundly, the women in my life honor my request. They don’t come bursting through my front door. They stand outside my door and patiently wait for me to come out.

I recently had a season of mourning and each time I opened my front door, there was a mocha, or a croissant, or flowers or chocolate, or a note saying ‘You are loved’…even homemade Tabbouleh salad (UH-mazing).

Each treasure a reminder, “We’re here for you – when you’re ready.” This helped me in the healing journey more than the physical solitude. Because,  I don’t really want to mourn alone. My body wants to be solo, but not my spirit. My spirit was being loved and prayed for as my body was huddled on the floor. I could feel it. And it made all the difference.

It’s teaching me to ask questions about my own role as a friend. How do my friends feel loved by me? How do they grieve? What makes them feel seen? How am I showing them I’m here?

This is sincere friendship. Meeting others in the spaces they understand as support. It may not match up with the way we receive support.

Three ways to help a friend who’s having a brutal week:

  1. Ask them what they need and accept the answer. If they don’t want to hang out, don’t push the subject. Find a way to love them outside the door – a thoughtful note, their favorite chocolate, cozy slippers. If you offer a coffee date and they say, ‘yes!’…jump in your car and hustle over there. Elijah affirmed his friendship with Elisha saying,As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” (2 Kings 2:2)  The point is to affirm they’re not alone.
  2. If they don’t want to talk, text them your prayers. I have a best friend who texts me prayers as though she is speaking them over me. Complete with, “Dear Lord” and “Amen”. Sometimes a simple, “I’m thinking of you right now,” is all we need. “My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God. (Job 16:20) The point is to affirm you care enough about them to carry their pain to God.
  3. Bring them joy. Make them laugh. I have a dear friend who knew I was having a rough week, and instead of asking how I was feeling over and over, she texted me a photo of her newly cracked treadmill with the line, “I killed it with my fatness”. I literally laughed out loud. This gorgeous Mamma isn’t overweight, she’s 8-months pregnant! Laughter brings our spirits up for fresh air. “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.”(Psalm 30:5 MSG) The point is to affirm perspective. They won’t feel this way forever.

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There’s More To Your Pain Than You Think

 

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When my littles were even littler, we had an epic car conversation about space.

“Mommy, name some of the planets!”

“Let’s see…there’s Earth, Saturn, Uranus, Venus…”

I’ll stop here. Because Eli didn’t hear the ‘V’ in Venus…he heard a ‘P’.

“Daddy’s (insert misheard word) is a planet?!!!”

Ummm…

It took a while to explain nothing on our bodies constitutes a planet. However, it’s pretty obvious we have trouble coming to grips the world doesn’t revolve around us.

A couple weeks ago, I wandered into our adoption journey with a woman I just met. Wide-eyed, she interrupted me, ‘Five years!?  How have you had the strength to go through all this and keep going?!’

I paused; I didn’t know a smidge about her faith, religion, or worldview. The beauty of a testimony is it belongs to its storyteller.

“God. It’s only through God. It’s the only answer I have. But, it’s the honest answer.”

I’ve no clue what she was thinking, but wheels where definitely running full speed behind her furrowed brow.

Sometimes, we forget our struggle doesn’t make us the center of the universe. At times, I’m too busy expecting everyone to revolve around me because I’m hurting.

What if…

The overwhelming amount of paper work,

Financial sacrifice,

Nights sobbing on the bathroom floor,

Naming and un-naming of children I thought were ours,

The ache of laying down my will in order to pick up God’s,

What if…all of it was to testify to this one woman…God is good. God is strong.

Would that be enough for me? Do I have the heart of Jesus to go after the one? These are questions I’m challenged with.

God’s heart is missional. He’s created me in His image to be on mission with him. Oh, how he loves us. Oh, how he wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Our lives aren’t just about us. They are ultimately about proclaiming His great name. Each trial, victory, tear of joy and wrenching heartache can be used to point someone we love to Jesus. New wine is only made through the crushing of grapes. What if the product of the pressing isn’t for us to enjoy alone?

Your friends are watching you.

Your children are listening to you.

You aren’t the only one in the midst of struggle.

Praise God in the pressing.

It may bring new life to someone standing next to you. There’s only room for ONE at the center of the universe.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

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Don’t Hoard “What Could’ve Been”

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I have papers filed, stuffed, and strategically tucked away…much like the grief attached to them.

I have official binders of completed Home Studies, one for Ghana, one for Domestic. Another folder filled with the remnants of our Ethiopia dossier. Love letters addressed, “To Our baby from Africa, From Big Sister Ciana,” randomly skydive out of shelves when I tug at a book. It’s routine for me to tenderly tuck them back in the crevice they escaped. It’s routine for me to cry as I do it.

God pressed my heart yesterday,

Why are you keeping all these papers?

Papers have no power.

I struggle releasing the hope that the International Adoption Program in Ghana will re-open. What if it did?! Even if I made gazillion copies of these documents…they’re all expired.

Yet, there’s no expiration date on hope.

When God calls the Israelites to enter the Promise land, He tells them…

“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” (Deuteronomy 1:6)

It was time to move forward to the new place God had prepared; A land of hope. If you’re familiar with the story, they had major trouble trusting in God’s promise.  They’d rather be literal SLAVES in Egypt then to trust God’s call to move forward.

We all do this. We make ourselves slaves to the past. We’re terrified God doesn’t have a better way. So we remain on timed-out mountain-tops and needlessly wander the wilderness.

His word reminds us, “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30)

Don’t hoard what could’ve been.  It devours valuable soul space.

Stop asking, Lord, what-if…

Start asking,  Lord, what- now?

If we don’t, we may miss the new thing God has for us.

“ See, I am doing a new thing!
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19) 

Snapshots of the past 5 years have indeed, looked like a spiritual trudge through wasteland. I want to perceive new things God’s springing up in my life. Physical things can clutter the halls of our spiritual house. I’m making room. But it’s not easy.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw all the papers away. I’m constantly handing my heart over for God to complete his work in me. However, I did consolidate them and move them into a garage space. Now they can’t ambush my peace. I’ll only revisit them if God calls me to.

God’s faithfully held me as I’ve mourned on this mountain for a season. But  I’ve been here long enough. It’s time to follow Him to new territory.

Honestly, there’s still sorrow in the descent.

Honestly,  I have no clear vision of where He’s leading.

I know it’s a land of hope.

I know in order for him to make a “new way”…He’s asked me to move all the papers off the path.

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I’ve Seen Worse

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“The mini-van sliding door of shame.” It’s a thing. You know,  when you drop your kids at school, all humanity is watching, the door slides open, and two McDonald’s cups, a gazillion goldfish crackers and one muddy soccer cleat avalanche before an audience of teachers and students. Yeah. It’s a bummer.

When this happened a few years ago, Eli’s precious teacher made a valiant effort to catch the miscellaneous items rolling between her legs. I was mortified.  I had to put my car in park, resulting in a drop-off line clog up, insisting, “You really don’t need to help me find a trash can!”

“My car’s been way worse!” she giggled.

My ears were scorching with embarrassment. However, I was able to laugh after I danced the humiliation-hustle back into the driver’s seat.  What a gift to be met with grace, and not disdain. Had her car really been worse?! Probably not. But, I chose to believe her. I imagined some mini-van, somewhere in the world, where maybe three McDonald’s cups slipped out.  Thinking of that Mamma made me smile. I wish I could meet her and whisper, ‘I’ve seen way worse…in my own backseat!’

Let’s be honest, we’re all in the same mini-van. Let’s give grace as a free gift to each other. We have the power to turn someone’s shame into relieved acceptance by simply acknowledging -we’re actually human, too!

The beauty of freely given grace, is it doesn’t put the recipient on trial before deciding if they’re worthy. I fully admit, I’m clean-car challenged. But that specific season of life was Crazy Town. Eli’s teacher didn’t know what I was straining to juggle. She didn’t need to. She didn’t need any other reason to love me like Jesus…but to know she was first loved by Him. “We love because he first loved us”.(1 John 4:19-21)

As we enter into a new school season, be the first to encourage another Mamma if she’s having a, “trash-just-rolled-out-of-my-car,” kind of day.  She may be hitting some speed bumps you’re unaware of.

Sit with her in the space she feels “less-than”.

Refrain from judgement.

Give grace freely. It costs you nothing.  

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

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Blue Fish Faith: A re-post in honor of London, my wise, unwanted fish. May he rest in peace & never slide under an oven again.

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I’m sad to announce that London, the infamous Masters fish, passed away this week. And no…I didn’t accidentally cook him! He died of natural causes (or perhaps internal injuries from the recent oven incident 😬). Many of you’ve followed this silly dude’s journey through my blogs and speaking. This is the first blog I ever wrote about my blue friend. May he rest in peace.

I ended up with a pet fish last month. I say “ended up,” because I didn’t want, ask for, or like this fish. I actually don’t like fish unless they have been grilled, fried or baked. I certainly don’t like them looking bored in a bowl on the kitchen counter. But my sweet eight year old daughter has her daddy wrapped around his caring finger. So when the two of them ran into the pet store to grab dog food, she came back to the car proudly carrying a fish in a cup.

“Mommy! Me and Daddy bought you a pet fish!”

“Oh? Why?”

“Because! Isn’t he so pretty? And, he was on sale!”

Well then, if he was on sale…I’d love to have another dirty animal to care for -on top of the dog, the bunny, and two leopard geckos.

“Oh, thank you, Sweet Girl. He is super pretty.”

Ugh!

I have a horrible history with pet fish. Seriously. Once I cooked my goldfish. I didn’t realize my mom had just washed the dishes with burning hot water. I filled a cup unknowingly with scalding water and carefully transfered my goldfish so I could clean his bowl. Within seconds, this doomed fish turned upside down, his scales white.

Poor fish. I don’t even remember his name.

So here I was, once again with the task of caring for a gilled creature. His name is London. My daughter is right. He’s really pretty. London is a Betta fish with long, flowing fins circling all around him.

Two weeks in, London stopped eating. He sulked at the bottom of his bowl. His fins looked burdened and heavy. He had weird white spots. I actually felt sad! I needed to find out if I could help London. I had a responsibility to keep this fish alive.

For one thing, it was a gift from my daughter. Second, I wanted to redeem myself for murdering what’s-his-name all those years ago.

I Googled, “What to do if Betta fish gets sick.” I went to the pet store, bought special water drops. Our family prayed for him before dinner.

Washing dishes a few days later, something caught my attention. A bright blue, poetic-like thrashing called me to London’s bowl. He was at the water’s surface, fins fanned and dancing around his body. He was hungry! I dropped one tiny food pellet in the bowl. He literally jumped up out of the water to catch the first one. He was ravenous. He shimmied and waited intently for more. He was healthy again.

Believe it or not, God’s Spirit spoke to me as I fed this silly little fish. He’s been chasing me down with a verse from Psalms for months. It’s been in worship songs and every podcast I’ve decided to turn on. My daughter even wrote her own devotional using the same verse. When I cleaned out the garage last week, I opened a devotional and on the top of the page was this same verse…again.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8

My response to to this verse had been, “Yes, Lord, I know You are good. You are so good.”  But, as I watched how breathtaking this fish was when he was hungry, deeper truth whispered to me.

Just as London had become gorgeous in his hunger…we are gorgeous in our Father’s eyes when we hunger for Him. He is longing for us to hover at the top of every moment, intently waiting to receive from Him.

If I want to taste the full goodness of God, I must first be hungry for Him. Not just hungry, but ravenous. Ravenous for His Word, His presence, His direction, His love. I must be swimming to the top of my prayer life, jumping out in faith to taste His goodness.

If God looks upon me and I’m sulking at the bottom of my day – with no desire to taste His goodness, no desire to be nourished by His Word – it’s an indication that I’m spiritually sick.

How can we taste of God’s goodness if we are not coming to His table to eat? And, why would we come to His table if we weren’t hungry? We’re  not called to come to His table as an afterthought. We wouldn’t insult a host by filling up on a meal we cooked ourselves before we went to their home for dinner. In the same way, we owe God our full appetite.

What had I been filling my soul with BEFORE coming to the Lord’s table? Was I leaving only enough space in my spiritual stomach for a small sampling of the Lord’s goodness?

Our mighty God is not an appetizer.  

He is not a dessert to finish our day with.

His very Word, His presence, His love is to be the bread that sustains me all day, every day. Nothing else. The Lord will only fill us with what we’ve made room for. The more we come to be filled by Him, the greater and fuller the filling will become.

When we’re ravenous for the Lord, people notice. Just like London’s movement at the top of his bowl made me put down my sponge and watch.  London is healthy, full of color and life. This is how God intended him to be.

God has designed His children to make the world stop and stare. The world should look at God’s children and ask, “What are they so hungry for? What makes them so passionate that they would jump up out of the mire of life to reach for more?”  Then we can pull up a chair and invite them to taste and see that the Lord is good.

My husband teases me, “God wanted to teach you to have blue fish faith”.

Cute. But if he buys me another fish, it’s going in the frying pan. Just sayin’.

The Strength We Sometimes Forget

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When I was a kid, some lady bundled me in winter clothes and threw me into a swimming pool. I think she was my swim teacher…or an escaped mental patient. Either way, the struggle was real.

I don’t recall having any legal representation or signing a waiver.  I just heard the zip of a puffy jacket, felt my feet lift off, and everything went silent as my head sunk under water. I tried to kick, but the snow boots cemented to my feet were SOO-AAA-HEAVY. Luckily, I had freakishly strong arms.

I fixed my eyes on the side of the pool. My muscles were burning. My mom was cheering. She saw an ability in me I didn’t know I had. If I wanted to make it to that edge, I had to forget about the weight on my feet and focus on my strength.

I’ve never been able to shake the memory of this day. Not because it was mildly horrifying, but because I made it to the edge of that pool. Even though I’d been thrown into an unknown circumstance, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens…

I did it.

I knew I could do it again.

How many times has it felt like God has thrown you into a cold pool with a Patagonia jacket and a pair of UGGS?

How many times has it felt he’s standing on the side watching you struggle for air?!

It can feel cruel.

Feelings lie.

God sees the strength in us we forget to claim. He sees HIS spirit in us, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 6:10-11) He wants us to see this truth, too!

He won’t allow the world to throw us in a pool and watch us drown.

He knows this…but he needs US to know this. We can’t fathom how the power of God can propel us through the waves, unless we’ve endured numerous storms.

It has nothing to do with our freakishly strong arms, but everything to do with our fiercely strong God. When we are weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11) How can we claim this, if we haven’t lived this?

I’ve experienced God’s supernatural ability to carry me through some goopy gunk. I know on a profoundly personal level, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

We all find ourselves floating in unknown circumstances, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens.

We all have a choice.

We can focus on the weight pulling us down, or focus on our strength– Christ in us.

Focus on Him, and we claim our holy ability to endure and press on.

We begin to trust we can survive deeper waters, swim a little farther, stay in the fight a bit longer. We begin to believe God keeps his promise to never leave us nor forsake us. He will always deliver us to His perfect will…even if it takes wearing soggy snow boots to get us there.

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Something on the Brink of Death is Stuck Under My Oven

 

 

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I’m on all fours, straining to flick out the blue, wriggling tail that’s slide under my oven.

I need something long, but not sharp.

 Alexa…Will a butter knife cut a beta fish?

Alexa…how long, can this thing live out of water?

Goodness, my daughter is crying. She begged to help me transfer the fish into his clean water bowl. She didn’t want to help, she wanted to do it herself.

I knew it was a bad idea. We’ve had London two years now. I’ve made it clear to him,

If you jump out and fall on the floor, I’m not picking you up. You’ll die there, buddy.

However, when the tragedy unfolded, I couldn’t let him die, undignified, on a sticky kitchen floor.

No. I’d save his life! And I did. He was softer than I’d imagined. Gross…but soft.

I kinda, sorta, totally love him.

I imagine we’ve all pleaded with God to give us something. Unlike me, he’s a perfect parent. My fuzzy feelings for London the fish, are nothing compared to the love God has for the desires of my heart.

He knows when we’re ready.

He knows when we’re not.

We may drop the responsibility on the floor, shrink behind a stool and cry. Not because we don’t want to please God, but because we aren’t equipped yet for the call.

For years, I’ve asked God,

Why have you allowed so many trials in our pursuit of adoption?

I’ve begged and begged…

Just let us do this Lord!!

He’s answered on several occasions the same way,

I’m making you stronger.

I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is perfectly holy reason for every situation. Sometimes he waits because I haven’t allowed him to shape my desires to his perfect will.

Desires of the heart aren’t docile and tame. More often, hope slips out of our hands and wedges itself in a hot, messy crevice. When it does, we can’t flip out and pronounce it dead. We need to be ready to get on our knees and breathe life into it through arduous prayer.

The third time the door shut on adoption; I swear the rupture in my heart was audible.

But I remembered, Jesus was, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53:3)

I also know he pushed through, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)

There was a joy our Savior didn’t reach until he endured great suffering. He knew the suffering was worth it because there was incomprehensible joy on the other end.

God cherishes the desires of our hearts so immensely, he won’t hand them over until our hands are perfectly aligned with his for safe transfer. Then, we must allow his hands to cup our own and lead us in the right direction.

So many times, I’ve pulled away from his will and forged the journey on my own.  He’s super patient. He’s watched countless ‘fish’ splat on my life’s floor.

Every so often, by his grace, my hold stays in perfect unison with his. This doesn’t mean things move forward without a hitch. I can’t flawlessly love and persevere like Jesus. But when something on the brink of death is stuck under my oven, I don’t freak out like I used to.

I understand desires of our hearts require constant care and dedication.  We need to love them as much as God does. Sometimes, it’s necessary to face things that once grossed us out; like picking up a fish or seeing the corrupt underbelly of adoption institutions.

Whatever God places in my little hands, is something he totally adores. He doesn’t give it to me to watch it suffocate. He has to make me brave enough to stretch into the unknown and fight for its life when things get shaky.

God withholds, until we’re prepared to take holy-hold of the things he loves.

 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. “

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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